Walk-offs down Western in Harding series

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Western falls to 3-4 overall after dropping two out of three games in a weekend series against the Harding University Bison.

During game one of Saturday’s double-header, the Griffons were able to gain a quick lead in the second inning off of an RBI single from right fielder Trevor LaHonta.

The lead was soon erased in the bottom of the third inning when Harding’s Zac Stewart knocked in two runs off of a double to right center. The RBIs from Stewart were only the beginning, as Jaxon Mohr followed with an RBI single to center field. Before Western could stop the bleeding, Stewart scored from third on a wild pitch to give the Bison an early 4-1 lead, but the Griffons would fight back.

Third baseman David Glaude hit a homer in the sixth inning to cut Harding’s lead in half. Later in the eighth inning, Western caught a break when the Bison first baseman committed an error that allowed pinch runner Orencio Fisher and first baseman Cosimo Cannella to score, tying the game 4-4.

Both teams were held scoreless in the ninth inning, forcing the game into extra innings. The Griffons went three up, three down in the tenth inning to halt their comeback. In the bottom of the tenth, Western quickly dispatched the first two Harding batters before Alan Copeland doubled to center and was quickly driven in by Shane Kinnear to hand the Griffons a 5-4 walk-off loss.

Head coach Buzz Verduzco knows that clutch execution is the key to winning close road games.

“You get in some of those tight situations and you have to be able to do some of the smaller or detailed things in order to win on the road,” Verduzco said. “Especially on the road, if you have a one-run lead, it’s usually not going to be good enough.”

In game two of the double-header, Western did not allow a hit until the bottom of the fourth inning. Harding’s John Chapman led the inning with a single up the middle followed by a single and a walk to load the bases. Chapman scored off of a fielding error by the Griffons’ shortshop Cody Childs, putting Western down 1-0.

The Griffons were behind until the top of the sixth inning when designated hitter Mitch Thorman launched a two-run homerun to take the lead over the Bison 2-1. Harding would be held off and the score would remain the same, resulting in a 2-1 series-splitting win for Western.

Sunday’s third and final game of the series remained a close battle through its entirety. Pitcher Banks Born effectively held off the Bison batters, allowing only four hits in five innings and recording five strikeouts.

In the top of the ninth, Western took the lead after Thorman hit an RBI single with bases loaded, but the lead would be short lived. In the bottom of the ninth, the Bison’s Alan Copeland nailed a walk-off two-run homer to make the score 2-1 and give the Griffons their second walk off loss of the series.

Verduzco wants his players to understand that any moment in a game can make a huge difference in the outcome.

“We’re trying to get across to our new players, especially the new players, just how one pitch, one play, one mistake can make a huge difference in a game and that’s kind of what happened to us,” Verduzco said.

Tough games will be a familiar situation throughout the season according to Verduzco.

“It doesn’t get any easier for us because Emporia State comes to town so we really have to be prepared for them,” Verduzco said. “We have our work cut out for us, but if we can tie up those loose ends in the tough part of the game then we can get it done.”

The Griffons will face No. 6 Emporia State University in their four-game series home opener beginning on Friday, Feb. 20. Since 2011, Western has seven wins and just one loss in their home opening series.

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